Conversations with a Wine Collector

Jim Clement first came across Leland Little Auctions a few years ago while searching online for older vintages of fine wine that didn’t need further cellaring and were ready for drinking. That led not only to a swiftly overabundant collection of wine, but also to a fruitful relationship with us as both buyer and consignor in numerous collecting areas. Approximately 600 bottles in the March 1 Rare & Fine Wine Auction are sourced from his cellars. Clement, co-founder of Landover, Maryland-based HeiTech Services, which provides business processing and information technology services to federal government agencies, shared with us some of his thoughts on wine, and on the Leland Little auction experience generally.

LLA: How long have you been collecting wine?
Clement: Seriously since about 2011. My wife and I always enjoyed drinking a glass or a bottle. I had bought some good champagne and needed to make sure I could store it. I bought a small wine refrigerator but soon it wasn’t enough, so I built a cellar in our house from part of a closet in our basement, and soon that filled up, too. So I built another cellar in our second house, a farmhouse that dates to the 1790’s. We’re going to retire there.

LLA: What led you to collect older vintages?
Clement: I wanted some properly aged wine that we could enjoy immediately, and that’s how I found Leland Little. I’ve probably bought a thousand bottles from the auctions over the years, and I don’t think there have been more than a dozen or so that were disappointing. I like the selection and the sourcing that [Wine Director] Mark [Solomon] does, and the buyer’s premium is very reasonable. And he’d been gracious about storing wine in Leland Little’s cellar during the summer so I could pick them up when the weather was safer for transporting them. I’ve toured the cellar, so I know the storage is good. In fact, when we were in the cellar, Mark said, “Do you want to pick up the wine you bought a year ago?” I had totally forgotten—that was embarrassing!

LLA: This is your largest consignment with Leland Little. What brings it about?
Clement: Once we move permanently to the farmhouse and sell the house we’re in now, I won’t have anywhere near enough room for all the wine. Both cellars got out of control. My wife likes to joke that she’s going to put me in a reality TV show and call it Wine Hoarders! Mark and [Assistant Wine Director] Marcus [Robbins] came up to pack up the wine consignment, ate dinner and stayed overnight in town, then loaded the truck and headed back to Hillsborough in the morning. They’ve become very good friends of ours; in fact, we’ve become good friends with a lot of the people at Leland Little. Mark came up in a truck with some tables I’d bought at a previous auction and took the wine back down. That was very kind of them.

LLA: Are there any bottles you’ve consigned in the upcoming auction that you’re particularly fond of?
Clement: There’s an old Madeira that came from my grandfather. I have no idea where he got it, and I think he must have forgotten about it. I kept it and forgot about it myself for about forty years. I thought, maybe it’s time to pass it on to someone else. It still had the original tax stamp on it; Mark researched it and found out it was probably bottled in the first few years of the twentieth century. My grandfather was born in 1888, so it could very well have been a wedding gift. It’s over 110 years old, but Madeira is pretty nearly indestructible; I think someone will enjoy having it in their collection.

LLA: As a buyer, have you acquired any particular favorites from Leland Little?
Clement: I know ten percent of what experts know, but I know what I like. And wine is made to be enjoyed, not just collected. My wife and I were married in 1975 and I look for good bottles from that vintage. They’re hard to find, but we found some wines from that year at Leland Little that were still drinking very well. Funny, though, one of the best ones we ever had was a 1999 red by Marietta Cellars. I paid ten dollars a bottle for the lot and thought they’d be over the hill. Even the winery considered it only a ten-year wine. Our eyes just popped open when we tasted it. It was like nectar. I couldn’t believe it.

LLA: You’ve also bought and consigned in other departments. How did that come about?
Clement: After the first time I bought wine, I was looking at the website to see when the next wine auction was. I came across a Gallery Auction catalogue and found some antiques. We like to furnish our farmhouse with antiques we can actually use. Our dining room table and buffet came from the auction. I recently picked up some leather-bound books that look great in the house. The representations online are always excellent.

Selections from Clement's wine collection can be found in our Rare & Fine Wine Auction.